A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose declined bail to a BSNL employee, who was accused of murdering his wife for insufficient dowry in February 1999. Digging deeper, the bench found that her death took place within seven years of the marriage of the victim to the man and there was a history of dowry demand and torture at her matrimonial home.
The victim’s brother lodged an FIR in February 1999 complaining that his sister was continuously harassed by the Bachcha Pandey, the BSNL employee, and his family who had thrown her out of her matrimonial home. After a compromise, she went to live with the husband but we. Her family was later informed about her death after the cremation had been carried out.
Walter Savage Landor, the 19th century English poet and activist, once said, “Delay in justice is injustice.” This case is an apt illustration of what he was talking about. Taking 10 years to file a chargesheet is nothing but gross dereliction of duty and making a mockery of the criminal justice system. Punitive actions should be taken against concerned officials in such cases to set an example.
After nearly 10 years, the Bihar police filed a chargesheet claiming sufficient evidence against accused persons named in the FIR, including pandey, for the dowry death. The Patna HC, while declining bail to Pandey, noticed that as per police case “very highly poisonous substance was detected in the viscera examination of the deceased”.
Justice Ramana-led bench said, “Despite the seriousness of the allegations, it is quite alarming that no actions were taken by the police against Pandey. After a lapse of more than 21 years since the incident and the registration of the FIR, Pandey was arrested in the case only on June 7 this year.” The bench noted that his bail pleas have been rejected by the trial court, followed by the HC.
While declining bail to Pandey, the bench said, “Admittedly, the petitioner is a central government employee working with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited. The flagrant delay in conducting the investigation and prosecution of the accused in connection with a serious crime involving death of a young married woman is extremely troubling, and the reasons for the same are unclear.”
“We consider it necessary to issue notice to the Director General of Police, Bihar as well as the Registrar General of the Patna High Court with a direction to them to place before us a report about the particulars of the present case, particularly with respect to the reasons behind such inordinate delay,” the bench said seeking report in four weeks.
Another bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Dinesh Maheshwari was equally surprised by the alleged time gap of 733 days between the pronouncement of a judgment by the Patna High Court on January 24, 2018 and its uploading on HC website on May 1, 2019.
The bench said, “There is an inordinate delay of 733 days as stated by the counsel (not 333 days as set out in the application and the office report). This aspect (needs to) be verified by the Registry… We call upon the Registrar General of the Patna High Court to submit the report to us whether the aforesaid facts are correct and the reasons for the same” It sought report by October 28.